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Flowers in winter can brighten up the snowy blues

A casual arrangement by Margaret Cheny. Special to the Pioneer.

Flowers are always used to celebrate and Valentine's Day is a traditional time to send flowers to our loved ones. Red roses have been the symbol of love since medieval times while rosebuds symbolize young love. Roses may be expensive, but even just one red rose in a bouquet of other flowers may be enough to convey the sentiment. Actually flowers during the long cold winter are welcome any day. By now all the colorful berries, greenery and flowers we had in our homes at Christmas have been put away. My last amaryllis is in bloom, but soon will be done and my poinsettias are not great anymore. Some fresh blooms would certainly cheer up the house.

Cut flowers are welcome and appropriate in any room of the house and are available from so many stores. Be sure to pick the most fresh for the longest lasting arrangement. Some flowers are longer lasting than others and those partially in bud will last the longest. Fresh roses can last up to a week but Snapdragons are rather short lived in water. I have found that Alstromeria, which is available all year round, is very long lived plus there are several blooms on each stem. Dianthus, which includes carnations and pinks, last well as do some of the daisy type flowers.

Foliage is important to bring to life the colors of the flowers. Use strong bold pieces to form the outline of the arrangement while supple pieces can add width or trail over the edge. In winter you may have to prune some greenery from your indoor plants, such as ivy, pothos, ferns and herbs. Go outside to cut some twigs from dogwoods or sprays of arborvitae.

The flowers you buy from the florist have already been conditioned, but if you pick from your own garden you must prepare them before arranging them. Stand the stems in cool water for a few hours. Even with florist flowers cut the stems at an angle and remove all the leaves that will be below the water. Tulips have a tendency to flop any which way (and even keep on growing) so you may wish to wrap their stems tightly in paper while you stand them in the conditioning water.

Using the generic vases from the florist is just fine, but there are much more interesting options. Look around your home for a variety of ideas from tall cylindrical glass vases or candle holders to tiny teacups. The combination of flowers and container is important to the style of the arrangement.

The formal flower arrangement requires that the total height of the material should be 1 ½ times the height of the container. Or, in a low arrangement the width should be 1 ½ times the width of the container. A classic style would utilize footed vases, urns and crystal containers and the finished design would be a compact geometrical shape such as a triangle. The background where it is placed should be compatible.

Most often we are not seeking a formal arrangement. For a casual or rustic look baskets, bowls, pitchers, clay or glazed pots, bottles and jelly jars could be used. The arrangement may have a just picked look. Modern low level designs disregard the traditional rule and often mass a single flower variety just above the rim of the container. Your imagination is the limit and the design should be a free expression of yourself.

Green florist's foam or "oasis" is often used for fresh flower arrangements. Soak the foam thoroughly in water until it is full without pushing it down. Top it with water every day. Another way to hold the stems in place is to crumple up a ball of chicken wire in the vase. In both methods you may need to hold the agents in place with crisscrossed floral tape. Old fashioned "frogs" or needle holders are useful for some designs. Fill vases ¾ full of water and add the packet of flower food that is often provided. Change the water every other day and enjoy.

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